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‘Cash strapped’ council fails to spend any of Government pothole grant

[F]igures revealed by Cumbria’s Labour and Liberal Democrat County Council show that the ‘cash-strapped’ authority has failed to spend a penny of nearly £3 million in emergency pothole repair funding which it received from the Government almost three months ago.

In April 2018, the Government provided £2.89 million in extra pothole-repair cash to the Labour and Liberal Democrat administration. The revelation that the county council has not still not used the Government money to repair local roads was unearthed in response to a Freedom of Information request.

In its response the council, which raised council tax by 3.99 per cent this year – the maximum allowed – says it is still deciding which potholes to repair with the extra funding.

Councillor James Airey, the Conservative group leader on Cumbria County Council, said: “This is yet another worrying example of the county council’s inability to spend extra Government funding that it receives.

“Why has the council spent almost three months deciding which potholes need to be repaired? I’m sure drivers and residents in South Lakeland could have told them in three minutes.

“The revelation that council has not spent a single penny of the £2.9 million it received in April for pothole repairs, comes hot on the heels of last week’s news that Government funding for improvements in South Lakeland at Lonsdale Terrace in Ulverston has had to be reallocated to other schemes because the council did not get its plans in place on time.

“We need road and other infrastructure improvements in South Lakeland to create good jobs and prosperity. When our Labour and Liberal Democrat council receives Government funding for improvements, they are too often caught sitting on their hands to the detriment of our area and the people who live here.”

Cllr Keith Little, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “The fact is that years of underfunding by Conservative led Governments have led to an estimated £300m of repairs needed to the county’s roads, so this recent money was a sticking plaster at best.

“For clarity, the council received an additional £1.4m for 2017/18 in February this year, then received its 2018/19 funding of £2.9m in April.

“Pot-hole repair is weather dependent so we were unable to start spending the February money until the snow had cleared from the county’s roads and the weather had improved.

“In recent months we have been accelerating our repair programme and have spent all of the £1.4m and so far  committed £216,000 from the 2018/19 money.

“Including our general roads maintenance budget, almost £8m has been spent on highways repair so far this year. Pot-hole repair is a priority  and we are making good progress in repairing the damage caused by one of the most severe winters in recent memory.”

In response to Freedom of Information request, Cumbria County Council, provided the following information in June on the total spending to-date of the £2.859 million pothole/flood resilience awarded to the local authority and announced by the Government on 26 March.

Answer: To-date there has been no spend against the £2.859 million allocation of pothole/flood resilience funding to Cumbria. The council have, to-date, been using pothole funding allocated as part of its 17/18 allocation for 18/19 whilst it develops a programme of work to utilise this additional allocation of 18/19 funding.

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